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'Eknath Shinde is dispensable now'

July 05, 2023 08:17 IST
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'The BJP used Shinde and the Shiv Sena to decimate Uddhav Thackeray, humiliate him by taking away his party as well as party symbol.'
'The Shiv Sena and Eknath Shinde have served their purpose.'

IMAGE: Prime Minister Narendra D Modi with Maharashtra Chief Minister Eknath Shinde in Mumbai. Photograph: ANI Photo

With Ajit Pawar's swearing-in as deputy chief minister in the Eknath Shinde-Devendra Fadnavis government, speculation has been rife that the incumbent chief minister will be soon eased out from his job and replaced by Pawar.

According to sources, the Maharashtra chief minister and the 39 Shiv Sena MLAs, who rebelled against their party boss Uddhav Thackeray in June 2022 and joined hands with Devendra Fadnavis to form the government, have lost their utility value for the BJP.

The BJP is now working on a rehabilitation package for the Shiv Sena MPs and MLAs in order to assuage their feelings and also ensure that they don't have any incentive to go back to their parent party.

The BJP is confident that Pawar, unlike his unsuccesful coup in November 2019, is capable of bringing in at least 40 Nationalist Congress Party MLAs with him to prevent the fall of the government in case the Maharashtra Speaker Rahul Narwekar decides to disqualify the 16 Shiv Sena MLAs.

"The BJP used Shinde and the Shiv Sena to decimate Uddhav Thackeray, humiliate him by taking away his party as well as party symbol. The Shiv Sena and Eknath Shinde have served their purpose and are now dispensable," says a source, who is privy to the goings-on in the corridors of power.

"Disqualification (of the 16 Shiv Sena MLAs including Shinde) will not be desirable as this will put paid to the political ambitions of the chief minister and the ministers and MLAs from his party for the next six years," says the source about how the Speaker could likely decide the disqualification plea.

Asked about the decision on the disqualification of 16 Shiv Sena MLAs which the Supreme Court has asked him to decide, Maharashtra Assembly Speaker Rahul Narwekar tells that the decision on the plea will take some time.

"I don't think those arguments have any merits. I am yet to decide on those petitions," says Narwekar.

Ask him if he has any fixed timeline to decide on the disqualification pleas, he says, "there are some contentious issues that the (Supreme) Court has first asked me to decide with regards to who represents the political party and who should be recognised as the whip and thereafter the merits of the matter (will be decided). There is a laid down process which I will follow."

"Shinde was often exposed as incompetent during his urban development ministry stint (as MVA minister) as someone who had no control over his ministry, as someone who could not command the respect of his subordinates or the bureaucracy," alleges a Shiv Sena-Uddhav Balasaheb Thackeray MLA who was his ministerial colleague in the Maha Vikas Aghadi government.

"His only bright side was his easy accessibility to party workers and fellow legislators and MPs; even as the state's chief minister his easy accessibility is what has endeared many Shiv Sena workers to Shinde," concedes the Sena-UBT MLA.

The BJP, sources say, will ensure that those who broke ranks with Uddhav Thackeray to help the BJP form the government will be awarded with Rajya Sabha seats and one or two ministries in the forthcoming ministerial reshuffle at the Centre.

According to them, Bharti Pawar, a member of the Scheduled Tribe community and the BJP Lok Sabha MP from Maharashtra's Dindori who was sworn in as minister of state for health and family welfare in 2021, along with Minister of State for Finance Bhagwat Karad, a BJP Rajya Sabha MP from the state, and Minister of State for Panchayati Raj Kapil Patil, the BJP's Lok Sabha MP from Bhiwandi, are likely to lose their berths and replaced by the NCP's Praful Patel and Shiv Sena MPs from Buldhana Pratap Jadhav and Mumbai South Central MP Rahul Shewale.

"If Pawar makes it to the top post in Maharashtra, then the BJP will have to accommodate Eknath Shinde at the Centre," says a source. "That will be the BJP's best bet to win the 2024 general election."

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